Published On: Mon, Aug 8th, 2022

Ombudsman gives VROMI-ministry bad report card

PHILIPSBURG — The Ministry of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and infrastructure (VROMI) gets a very bad report card in the 2021 annual report of the Ombudsman.

“The Ombudsman continues to be extremely concerned about the functioning of the ministry of VROMI,” the report states. “The growing inability to address inquiries, applications and concerns is alarming.”

In a letter of concern, addressed to the minister of VROMI, the Ombudsman states that “the ability for the ministry to respond to letters, applications and concerns has come to a virtual halt.”

Furthermore, the annual report notes that investigations and reports by the Ombudsman have not resulted in any meaningful changes in the way the ministry operates. “On the contrary, a precipitous (dangerously high) decline has been identified.”

Of the 64 complaints the office of the Ombudsman received in 2021, 32 were against the VROMI-ministry. None of them were closed through intervention and most complaints were filed against the departments of Domain Affairs (19) and Infrastructure (9). At the close of the year there were still 36 complaints open against this ministry.

“Domain Affairs represents almost one third of all complaints. This is due to a lack of attention to the organizational breakdown over the years,” the report states.

The Ombudsman also found that there is a lack of cooperation between ministries. “The lack of inter-ministerial cooperation stalls the decision-making process and the need for more inter-ministerial coordination is imminent. This is especially visible between the ministries of VROMI and TEATT (Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication).”

Citizens contacted the Ombudsman 293 times in 2021 for information regarding an array of issues, including legal rights. Civil cases, immigration and naturalization and domain affairs top the list of information-requests.

Of the 64 complaints the Ombudsman received, 60 were against ministries and four against private entities with public authority. There were also two complaints against non-administrative bodies: GEBE and the Joint Court of Justice.

The Ombudsman closed 28 cases. Nine of them were closed in the intervention-stage, meaning that the relevant administrative body responded by addressing the complaint or by asking for additional time.

All in all the office closed 50 cases in 2021 and at the end of the years there were 38 open cases.

The complaints against other ministries pale compared to the large number against VROMI, Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication 5, Justice, Finance and Education 4 and General Affairs and Public Health 3 each.

However, the Justice Ministry has still five cases open that date back to 2018. “The relevant department head must assume responsibility post haste,” the report states.

Th Ombudsman report also provides details about the systemic investigations it conducted. One deals with the tender for solid waste collection, a second with SZV’s procurement procedures for the selection of medical aid equipment (in particular glucometers).

The Ombudsman also submitted national ordinances regulating cuts in employment benefits for employees of (semi) public entities to the Constitutional Court for review, but this court ruled that they are not at odds with the constitution.

In preparation for the Constitutional Court-review, the Ombudsman conducted a survey among the citizens that are affected by these ordinances. Approximately 50 percent (1,734) people took part. An overwhelming 87 percent said that the quality of their lives was poor to average, while 14 percent said that it was good to very good. Almost all participant (97 percent) said they were “slightly concerned” that they were unable to adequately provide for their families as a result of the cuts. “The outcome of the survey is an indication of the level of hidden poverty,” the report states.

Traditionally, the Ombudsman also examined how government agencies stick to standards of proper conduct. Most complaints in this field are about the lack of active and adequate information provision, adequate organization of services, promptness and cooperation.

“There is a noted lack of follow up by a majority of the ministries on the recommendations of the Ombudsman,” the report states. This usually means that ministries did not take corrective measures to address complaints.

In 2020 the Ombudsman issued 56 recommendations. In 2021 this number dropped to 40.


Download the 2021 annual report here>>>