Liberal Senator voted on bill her company advised on: report

Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate
Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate. Photo: Rijksvastgoedbedrijf / Corne Bastiaansen / Wikimedia Commons

VVD Senator Anne-Wil Duthler voted on a bill that her own company gave advice on, according to research platform Follow the Money. With that, Duthler acted unethically, experts said, NOS reports.

In 2013 the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports asked Duthler's consultancy firm to advise on the text of the Social Support Act, which transferred the responsibility of a number of healthcare tasks to the municipalities. According to Follow the Money, a number of the consultancy firm's recommendations were included in the final bill.

The bill passed through the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. And in 2014, the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate, also approved the bill with a one seat majority. Duthler was one of the Senators who voted for the bill. 

Experts are surprised that Duthler voted on this bill, as it is Senate's task to control the government. "This is the butcher approving his own meat", business ethics professor Muel Kaptein said to Follow the Money. According to Kaptein, Duthler's vote on this bill goes "completely" against the idea of the separation of powers. 

At the very least, this gives the "appearance of a conflict of interest", constitutional law professor Wim Voermans said. 

A spokesperson for the VVD told Follow the Money that Duthler was not involved in the advice her company gave about the law. The fact that the Ministry did not publicly tender for a firm to give this advice, and instead gave the order directly to Duthler's company, had to do with "lack of time" at the department, the spokesperson said. 

Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said that he would investigate how the tender was done, according to NOS. Minister Kasja Ollongren of Home Affairs said that she can not comment on this case, because it is now up to the Eerste Kamer to investigate for itself whether everything happened according to the rules. 

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