Tension Mounts for Weekers on Bulgarian Fraud
THE HAGUE, 07/05/13 - The Lower House is unhappy with an overview that Finance State Secretary Frans Weekers sent this weekend on the so-called Bulgarian fraud. At the proposal of the entire opposition, the House decided Monday on an emergency consultation in writing.
The central question is whether Weekers knew for some time that gangs from Bulgaria in particular have been bringing people to the Netherlands on a large scale to collect subsidies. They are put temporarily in houses controlled by the gang in order to pocket subsidies from municipal desks, which do not check who the applicants are, and are then brought back to Bulgaria.
According to some insiders, the fraud could run into more than one billion euros. If the House should conclude Weekers has lied about not knowing about the fraud, he may have to resign. Several opposition parties have already suggested he should step down.
Weekers claims he only discovered the fraud when TV programmes Brandpunt and RTL Nieuws reported it a fortnight ago. But other media produced similar stories in the past year already and civil servants of the finance ministry have stated that Weekers is lying. Union leaders claimed this weekend these civil servants have been told internally to stop talking to the press or have their careers ruined.
The Lower House in currently in recess. The question is to be debated on 14 May.
Meanwhile, experts say the Netherlands simply has too many subsidies schemes and forms of social benefits for lower incomes to avoid the system being abused. According to fiscal economy professor Peter Kavelaars, 70 percent of Dutch households get some form of benefit.
"It is an extreme total. We are talking about 10 billion euros," said Kavelaars on the nu.nl website. "The system is too generous."
According to Groningen University researcher Albert Jan Tollenaar the rules are focused on distributing benefits rather than controlling them. Kavelaars agrees: "At the moment there is too little capacity to combat abuse."