Saturday, August 4, 2007

Dutch Corruption

Remember Dutch Development Minister Bert Koenders (PvdA), who along with his German counterpart brought the Ad Melkert (PvdA) concocted Shaha Riza affair to the Worldbank’s attention, initiating the ousting on false grounds by fellow Dutch politician Herman Wijffels (CDA) of Paul Wolfowitz? Well, if anyone needed any more proof that Wolfowitz had to go for no other reason than his program to reduce corruption by insisting on ROI results rather than just pissing away large quantities of taxpayer's money to unknown and unverified destinations, here it is.

The Netherlands is spending more money on development than any other country in the world: 0.82% of GNP, amounting to € 4.3 billion, annually. At the same time, trade between Third World countries and The Netherlands is not florishing; due to European trade barriers aimed to protect EU farmers, third world countries cannot sell any farming products to the EU. This is in line with the policies designed to keep the poor poor, as thousands of jobs in 'development' will go once the poor get richer.

Where all the money ends up is unclear, like with the money spent by the Worldbank. Over the period 1993 - 2006, € 5.7 billion is still unaccounted for by what's now Koenders' department. Nobody knows where it went. Oh well, it's just taxpayer's money, so why would the state care? Once you run out, you just raise the taxes, right?

Recently Minister Koenders organised a single day festival in The Netherlands to get attention from businesses and corporations for the UN Millenniumtargets, which (among other things) aim to reduce world hunger and halve the amount of people that have to live on less than 1$ US a day. Koenders is setting the example by offering € 50 million of taxpayer's money for this. The event featured a number of artists, including Marco Borsato, who offered their services pro bono. Nevertheless, the single day event, which attracted all of 5,000 people, cost the taxpayer € 1 million, of which € 750K went to the organisers of the event, a bureau called BKB.

If in the EU the state wants to have something built or organised, and the amount of money involved is over € 137K, this has to be put out for public tender throughout the EU. For this event, Koenders ignored this (mandatory) regulation and simply gave the event to BKB. The catch here is that BKB is not just an event organiser. The name BKB is based on the names of its owners: Booij, Klusman and Van Bruggen. In the 90s of the previous century, Booij and Van Bruggen were the leaders of a PvdA youth project called 'Niet Nix'. They were also, with party support, candidate for a duo-partyleadership of the PvdA which didn't make it, and they were involved in the PvdA election campaigns of 1998, 2003 and 2006. Immediately after they started BKB, they were often contracted by the government, not only from PvdA led departments, but still.

Nobody really knows why the event was necessary, and why it had to be organised in an area that's pretty limited due to all sorts of environmental restrictions, which drives cost up as a rule. Critics agree that it was a useless event, at the wrong time, and the wrong place: "PvdA Minister Bert Koenders purposely broke the law for a completely unnecessary event", writes weekly magazine Elsevier. From the outside, it appears as if the event was dreamt up to generate money for BKB.

Dutch SP MP Harry van Bommel said that "BKB appears to be the commercial faction of the PvdA", but Koenders claimed he was in a hurry (why?) and thus resorted to the 'trusted bureau' of his party-friends. Koenders' Ministry refuses all comments. Not only could the deal with BKB have been € 200K less expensive ("We just would have had a stage less", Van Bruggen said), other agencies would have liked to have been given the opportunity to organise things for even less. Koenders now says he was pressed for time and made a mistake.

But that's a lie. Dutch leftist newspaper De Volkskrant, which is normally very supportive of the PvdA had an article that clearly shows it was not a mistake, but an intentional favor to his old time friends: Koenders was livid. According to him this deal should never have become public knowledge. He concluded that he could not even trust government officials close to him. "Who did this to me" he demanded angrily, when questions were asked in Parliament on the matter by coalition partner CDA's Kathleen Ferrier.
Towards fellow PvdA partymembers he said that this was a deliberate action by the CDA aimed at discrediting him. As if anyone needed to. It's unbelievable that a government Minister, who should be beyond suspicion, involves himself in corruption and then should complain he cannot trust others. He is the untrustworthy person here, and should be fired without compensation immediately. But that won't happen. He'll be given another chance and be more careful about it. After all, his own party deemed this to be a "beginner's mistake". And given the amount of corruption inside the PvdA this most likely addresses not the corrupt behaviour, but the fact that he got caught.

Development does not have its own department, but 'lives' inside the Foreign department, headed by CDA's Maxime Verhagen. There has always been animosity between Development and Foreign Affairs, and current relationships are pretty bad. As over the past few months Koenders has constantly been seeking publicity, even in area's that do not belong to his responibility, the current commotion about his position is not unwelcome to the CDA. But even inside the PvdA Koenders has no support for his actions. He has been criticised for his nonchalant attitude when answering the questions in parliament, and 'his credibility has been severely hampered'. Gosh, after the Wolfowitz affair, I wasn't aware Koenders had any credibility left.

The € 50 million Koenders promised for the UN Millennium targets will benefit yet another set of friends of his, the Evert Vermeer Stichting (EVS), where he used to be a comittee member in the early 1990's.

While Koenders is not alone as a rule-dodger, he's the only one that obviously favored a befriended bureau. Dutch Minister of Youth and Family AndrĂ© Rouvoet, from Christian party CU, also made hole-and-corner arrangements (€ 280K). Ella Vogelaar, our official Muslim appeaser, arranged for a bustour worth € 595K ignoring the rules. Vogelaar claims the tour actually consisted 40 tours of € 15K each, which were thus exempt from the rule, even though the deal was with a single agency. How can you have a single day, national bustour for € 15K? People can fly to Ibiza for an 8 day holiday for under € 750, all inclusive. To get to € 15K, you'd need to pay for 20 people's holidays, have some change left, and still the organiser would make a profit. Oh well, it's only taxpayer's money.

In total, € 43.3 million was spent (on unnecessary events) by the government through hole-and-corner deals on this year's 100 days 'reconaissance trips', the only purpose of which was an attempt to hide the fact that the coalition didn't have a clue on what to do. Only difference was they talked with the usual supects on various places in the country, rather than in their offices in The Hague. Once the '100 days' were over, holiday recess started, giving them another 100 days of inactivity and not having to take responsibility.

The only thing the Dutch government has done since they came to power in November 2006 is force the General Pardon, revert the deportation of criminals back to their home countries, waste € 43.3 million on useless activities and promising to waste a lot more, reopen the borders to Christian Reverends (the excuse) and Islamic Imams (the reason) and surrender to the European Union's totalitarian power play. The lemmings are certainly heading for the cliffs.