NL: Top officials lied in childcare allowance scandal investigation

THE HAGUE - The two top officials at the Tax Authority and the Ministry of Finance lied about knowing of a secret memo on the childcare allowance scandal, RTL Nieuws and Trouw reported based on their own research.

While being questioned under oath by the parliamentary committee of inquiry, former Tax Authority director Jaap Uijlenbroek and top Finance Ministry official Manon Leijten said they were not aware of a 2017 memo by Sandra Palmen of the Benefits Directorate, which called the discontinuation of the childcare allowance of 300 parents "reproachable" and unlawful and said that these parents should be compensated. But a reconstruction by RTL and Trouw shows that the memo was discussed during crisis talks at the Ministry of Finance on 4 June 2019, and both Leijten and Uijlenbroek were present at that meeting.

The memo was discussed internally in 2017, and then again at the meeting with about 20 civil servants in 2019. In neither case did this lead to compensation for affected parents. The memo became public knowledge by chance in October 2020, after questions by CDA parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt.

According to RTL, after the 2019 meeting, lower officials suggested that the memo not be filed, which would result in it not coming up in any future questions from parliament or appeals to the Open Government Act. The top officials did not object to this breaking of the rules.

In the childcare allowance affair, thousands of parents ended up in serious financial problems after the Tax Authority wrongly labeled them fraudsters and ordered them to repay their childcare allowance. In some cases this involved tens of thousands of euros. The Tax Authority used ethnic profiling in its witch hunt, with dual-nationality being one of the criteria with which potential fraudsters were selected.

In December, a parliamentary committee of inquiry presented a report stating that the involved parents faced unprecedented amounts of injustice. The Rutte III cabinet collapsed in the aftermath of this report. Though most of the Ministers remained in office in a caretaker capacity, to deal with current and urgent issues like the coronavirus pandemic. The Rutte III cabinet is still in office, awaiting the formation of a new cabinet after the parliamentary elections in March.

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