At the end of 2022, there are a couple of interesting developments around the governmental bodies in the Benelux and integrity. Let’s start with Belgium. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Civil Service Petra De Sutter wants to strengthen the integrity policy for the 65,000 federal civil servants, by appointing a coordinator / Chief Integrity Officer for each federal public service. The coordinator will supervise everything that has to do with integrity. Civil servants will be able to turn to the coordinator with questions and advice.
Moreover, there will be an integrity knowledge center and government department heads will include integrity goals in their annual planning. The government services will also report back to the ministers of custody every year. From 2024, the government will publish an integrity report annually.
What I like about Petra De Sutter is that she takes integrity seriously, by proactively thinking of the necessary measures and not by reacting to a situation after the integrity breaches have taken place already. She believes that implementing policy means getting ahead of the problems. She will also focus on better protection of the whistleblowers. (In general, she has shown herself to be a fierce politician.)
In the Netherlands, ministers will now have a code of conduct that brings together all the rules and principles they must adhere to. The code concerns, for example, how ministers deal with ancillary activities, gifts and subsequent positions. These rules originate from various letters to the House of Representatives, the Code of Conduct for Integrity of the State and the Code of Good Public Administration. Besides, the code of conduct and the matter of integrity will be discussed every year in the Council of Ministers, preceded by an obligated training. There will also be a confidential adviser who will advise Dutch ministers on integrity issues.
Meanwhile, two thirds of Dutch municipalities have no anti-racism policy, which is quite a harsh reality. This is concluded by the Dutch Coordinator against Discrimination and Racism Rabin Baldwesingh. In the past five years, the number of municipalities with its policy increased minimally, namely from 33 to 35 percent. Moreover, two thirds of the municipalities actually refuse to develop policy. Many municipalities do not feel the urgency to do something against racism, partially because there are more integrity breaches taking place than discrimination and racism, some politicians argue. To me, that is weird because both are intertwined and both should be of equal urgency indeed.
The Local Anti-Discrimination Policy Monitor 2022 shows that it is mostly the larger municipalities that have developed policies to combat racism. The monitor was led by Knowledge Platform Inclusive Society (KIS) and knowledge institute Movisie. They concluded that the number of reports that municipalities receive about discrimination and racism is many times smaller than the actual problem. Partly for this reason, many municipalities did not invest time, money, and effort in developing an adequate policy.