Amsterdam's public safety department in shambles: report

Amsterdam's city hall the Stopera (Photo: MichielverbeekNL/Wikimedia Commons)Amsterdam's city hall the Stopera (Photo: MichielverbeekNL/Wikimedia Commons)

The public order and security department (OOV) of the municipality of Amsterdam doesn't have its own security in order. It is the only department in the municipality that scores a 1 on a scale from 1(very bad) to 5 (good) in an internal report, the Telegraaf reports based on documents received after appealing to the Open Government Act.

The OOV department is responsible for, among other things, dealing with crime in the city. They investigate whether money is laundered through businesses, for example. They also arrange security in the city during big events like King's Day. In order to do that job well, the department has access to privacy sensitive documents, like criminal records, tax returns and financial data of business owners.

But according to the Telegraaf, there is no system in place to find out which officials accessed and downloaded such privacy sensitive documents. "Misuse of mail, log-in code and data therefore becomes possible", one risk analysis of the municipality states. 

Officials working at the OOV department were not screened and there is no record of who received or borrowed municipal laptops or cellphones. Many OOV officials never took the Amsterdam oath, and former employees could easily access the department with their old access pass. It is unclear whether this was abused in the past, because there are no log files, according to the newspaper. 

In 2016 the municipality of Amsterdam asked all its departments for an analysis of any risks of fraud. The analysis submitted by the OOV department was rejected by then mayor Eberhard van der Laan and municipal secretary Arjan van Glis. They wrote that the department "insufficiently looked through the eyes of a malicious employee and as a result the risks are still unnamed". 

The complete Amsterdam municipal council - opposition and coalition - requested an emergency debate with mayor Femke Halsema regarding these issues, calling the situation "unacceptable", the Telegraaf reports. "I find this very worrying", ChristenUnie faction leader Don Ceder, who requested te debate along with the VVD, FvD, CDA, PvdO, DENK and Bij1, said to the newspaper. The coalition parties supported the request. "I quickly want clarity on how things now stand at the department. I also want to know why the city council was not informed about this so that we could carry out our supervisory task", Ceder said. 

The municipality of Amsterdam told NOS that measures have been taken to improve the situation at the OOV department. "When filling new vacancies, we work with an adapted and stricter procedure. Employees who work with confidential information are subject to extra requirements. A large number of employees have now received integrity training", a spokesperson said. Mayor Halsema also wants to expand the number of functions for which an extra AIVD screening is required.