It is not right to attribute the payment affair mainly to the policy of the Ministry of Social Affairs (SZW). That‘s what Maaike van Tuyll, top official at that ministry, said to the parliamentary interrogation committee. She responded to (former) officials of the Tax Administration, who argued yesterday before the same committee that they were forced by SZW to act hard against parents.
The Tax Administration is responsible for the implementation of the surcharges, SZW is responsible for the policy. According to Van Tuyll, it was not part of the policy to designate parents as fraudsters who had entered something wrong. That stamp was given by the IRS.
Should never have happened
“ We did not have the image that we ordered a fraud hunt,” said Van Tuyll. According to her, special teams of the Tax Administration (CAF teams) collected evidence of fraud in extreme ways. Parents who had not actually done anything wrong received no extra charge and sometimes had to repay tens of thousands of euros. Van Tuyll: “If you just execute the law, it won’t go so horribly wrong.”
She herself only found out about a year after taking office in 2016 that there were such major problems, after a report from the National Ombudsman. Van Tuyll finds it awful afterwards that she did not see what happened to parents before. “This should never have happened. You hear it: it bothers me,” she said emotionally.
Not sufficient political support
meantime, Social Affairs was working on a completely new system for the allowances, whereby the money would be transferred directly to the childcare centre, rather than to the parents. According to Van Tuyll, that would have solved a lot of problems.
She argued ‘passionately‘ with the then Secretary of State Van Ark in favour of the introduction of that new system, but she was told that there was not enough political support for that.
In the summer of 2019, then Secretary of State Snel of Finance wanted to compensate for a first group of parents who were duped, but that was killed after objections from the Ministry of Social Affairs, among other things. Van Tuyll said that at first she was enthusiastic about the plan, but soon saw big disadvantages as well.
For example, it found that the proposed compensation amount, EUR 5000, did not do justice to the situation. In addition, some of the cases were over five years old. These should not normally be opened anymore. Making an exception could mean that the government could ‘abuse’ it in other matters.
Lastly, Van Tuyll feared that the compensation scheme would be charged to the Social Affairs budget. As a result, there might be less money left for other parents with surcharges.
Quickly finally waived his compensation proposal. The Donner Commission still insisted on generous compensation in November 2019, but most parents have not seen any money yet.