The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee is investigating, among other things, what went wrong with childcare allocations. Rutte has been listened to before, but today he was questioned about his role as prime minister. His previous government resigned over the benefits issue.
Today the Prime Minister wore robes again. He said: “I think it is a shame that we have not been able to prove that there was drama together before 2019 in the area of childcare allowance.”
He was interrogated
Rutte disputes the impression that fraud in benefits and allowances was a major theme in the formation of his first two governments. Although the Ministry of Social Affairs has been instructed to cut €180 million in anti-fraud measures, he said this was “negligible” in the big picture.
“We are now, of course, looking through the straw for fraud,” Rutte said during the interrogation, which lasted more than three hours. But he couldn’t remember that this was considered so important at that time. For example, during the formation of what would become his first government, tackling fraud was not a “main topic”.
Billions in discounts
The Prime Minister also noted that €51 billion had to be cut and repaired at that time. “These are, of course, strange sums.” The fact that the Ministry said that it would not be able to collect the required amount by tackling the fraud had no effect. It was more common for departments to “back off” when they learned how much savings they needed to make
In previous inquiries, former senior officials said that during that period they came under significant pressure from politicians to more aggressively address fraud and abuse through benefits and allowances. It is said that the cuts imposed on ministries played an important role, in addition to the prevailing feeling in society that there is a lot of fraud.
All or nothing approach
However, Rutte said he did not believe the level of cuts imposed was decisive in the “drama” surrounding the childcare premium. According to him, what is more important is the “all or nothing” approach, which states that people will lose their entire allowance for the smallest mistakes. He thinks it’s “stupid” for it to happen this way.
According to Rutte, the broader trend of tougher fraud policy began long before his time: he points to the Fines Act, which dates back to 1996.
The parliamentary inquiry follows a previous parliamentary inquiry – also known as a mini-inquiry – into the benefits scandal. Its final report, Ongekend Inrecht, prompted Rutte’s third government to resign at the beginning of 2021.
It’s the final week of public hearings.
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