Not all municipalities carry out the importance of integrity with the same zeal. Often, it is only a policy aimed at sanctions after violations, but officials fail to properly inform about the broader approach. ‘A culture of naming and shame is not the right way. ‘
After #metoo, the revelations about abuses on The Voice, the intervention in the Volt party and the investigations by the D66 and PvdA, cross-border behavior is still the topic of the day. But according to Geeke Hissink, the municipalities are struggling with the issue. ‘I get a lot of questions about it,’ says the employment lawyer in Hekkelman. ‘Municipalities that want to communicate: if you’re struggling with something, report it. Or they want to convey that violations are not allowed, and report on the intranet that cross-border behavior is unacceptable and that it will be dealt with harshly. ‘ Not the right way, Hissink says. ‘It’s a culture of naming and shame† It must first be discussed with officials in order to act later ».
No topic of conversation
In 20 percent of the northern municipalities and in 10 percent of the G40 municipalities, the integrity of the civil servant is not taken into account at all, the figures show in an HR benchmark by Hekkelman Advocaten among sixty municipalities. In almost three quarters of the municipalities in the south, it happens ‘once every few years’. “All too often it is a stand-alone, at the start of employment or not at all a topic for discussion,” Hissink agrees. “It simply came to our notice then. In fact, I would expect all municipalities to be aware of it, at least on an annual basis. ‘
This can be done in different ways: initiate the topic during a lunch meeting or do it during a work meeting. The frequency must be increased, because not everyone has the same feeling for it, Hissink experienced during workshops on integrity. “It was not 100 per cent who said‘ yes ’or‘ no ’to statements whether there was a breach of integrity. So not everyone has the same compass. You have to talk to each other about that ‘.
All too often, the integrity of the civil servant is a stand-alone topic of conversation when one gets hired or not at all.
Municipal officials have retained their special status after the normalization in 2020, which protects them from political arbitrariness, but must also ensure that officials act with integrity. The municipality must specify this by pursuing an integrity policy, drawing up a code of conduct and ensuring that an oath or confirmation is taken upon accession to the employment. It also appears from the Civil Service Act 2017 that the civil servant is obliged “to act as a good civil servant and to comply with the obligations arising from his position”. Failure to comply is a ‘failure to fulfill the obligations imposed on the official by the contract of employment’.
The official’s special integrity position received much attention from the administrative court, but also it civil law recognizes this. It is crucial that officials know the Code of Conduct and that it is enforced in practice and without exception. The judge appreciates the municipal official’s own responsibility, but: where the (sanctions) policy was not enforced, the officials went free.
Code of Conduct
At least that is one of Hekkelman’s insights. ‘If, as a municipality, you have never stated the rules of order so clearly, and you then stand before the court with an argument that an official must be dismissed because he does not comply with them, the first question from the judge is: where does it appear that the employee, who actually knows the rules of order? As a municipality, you must be able to substantiate this. Even with obvious cases like theft, one has to make sure that people know what is expected of them and how to account for themselves. ‘
Read the whole story in BB12, which will be published at the end of this week (login)