Dutch government not even close to fixing damage tax office caused in profiling scandal
The Dutch government is years behind schedule in compensating the victims of the Tax Authority’s benefits scandal. There is increasing political pressure to speed up the process, but the employees of the implementing organization UHT get no direction on how to achieve this, Nieuwsuur reports. The workers are bogged down in internal rules and procedures, petrified of making mistakes or reporting problems, and the staff turnover is so big that a lot of time has to go to training new personnel.
Nieuwsuur spoke to dozens of UHT employees, all of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of the consequences if they talked publicly about problems in the organization. All the employees the program spoke to said they applied to work at the UHT to help the thousands of parents in the benefits scandal. The Tax Authority wrongly labeled them fraudsters - often based on their ethnicity - and caused many to fall into deep debt by imposing massive fines and ordering parents to repay their childcare allowance. In some cases, child protection services even ended up placing children out of their parents' homes.
In a recent draft letter to parliament, seen by Nieuwsuur, State Secretary Auckje de Vries (Allowances) said that without intervention, victims will have to wait until 2027 before the UHT has settled all cases. She aims to reduce that time to 2025.
The UHT employees were not thrilled by that announcement. “The pressure to handle more cases is very high. But no one says how to do that,” one employee told the program. Internal procedures are slowing the handling of cases to a crawl. And everyone is petrified of making a mistake, “so everything comes to a standstill,” a UHT employee said.
Employees don’t feel safe raising the problems they encounter. “If you have a criticism, even if it is constructive or you propose solutions, you are seen as difficult.” People who do raise issues don’t get their contract extended, the UHT employees said. “That is a signal to the rest: if you speak out: the same will happen to you.”
That leads to an enormous turnover of employees, which means more time spent training new ones. According to Nieuwsuur, the employees' point is confirmed in confidential documents from the UHT management, which state: “The biggest current bottleneck is the fact that more than half of newly recruited and trained employees leave within six months.”
UHT employees worry that this attempt to compensate for the Tax Authority’s profiling scandal will eventually turn into another scandal. “We are becoming stricter. The parent should be leading. Now the main thing is to look for evidence to distrust their story. And that search for evidence makes the process even slower.”