Municipalities Overwhelmed with Nonsense Questions
THE HAGUE, 19/07/13 - More and more municipalities are struggling with citizens that pose nonsensical questions, in the hopes that these questions will not be answered in time. In this case, the municipality is actually required to pay a fine to the questioner.
Tytsjerksteradiel municipality recently received a question which asked what letter type the municipality uses in certain documents, according to Mayor Ter Keurs. "A nonsensical question, but we are required to give an answer. Because the question was not answered in time, we had to pay 400 euros.”
This fine stems from the Openness of Government Act (WOB). This specifies that every citizen must in principle receive an answer to their questions within eight weeks. If this does not happen, then the municipality has to pay a fine for each day that the answer has still not been given. This fine can run up to 1,300 euros.
Municipal officials spend a lot of time every week answering these WOB questions. Because the number of questions is steadily increasing, it regularly occurs that municipalities have to pay a fine. For example, Smallingerland had to pay 1,300 last year because parking fine data was not provided in time.
Ter Keurs: "This problem is at play in many more municipalities. The thought behind the Act is of course excellent; the government must be transparent. But it is being abused too much.”