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Wim Voermans discusses the Public Records Act and violations of administrative confidentiality in the Arib case

Prime Minister Rutte has broken the Archiefwet (Dutch Public Records Act) for years by deleting his text messages. That was the conclusion of the Information and Heritage Inspectorate in a scathing report. On Monday, Speaker of the Dutch House of Representatives Vera Bergkamp also filed charges after the leaking of confidential information regarding the investigation into her predecessor Khadija Arib.


‘The Public Records Act is very clear,’ says Wim Voermans, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law in Leiden. ‘The law states that you should archive written messages.’ But apparently that does not apply to everyone. ‘We have a system for this. It is called Selectielijsten (selection lists).’ Those lists are an overview of all the subjects that need to be archived. According to the Information and Heritage Inspectorate, Mark Rutte chose to ignore this. 

That was not the only thing the Prime Minister chose to ignore, according to the professor. ‘Rutte used an improper device. His old Nokia. That is not really allowed by the Public Records Act. You need to have a proper device that you can use for archiving.’ And according to Rutte that was not possible with his phone because it made it incredibly slow and cumbersome. ‘He defended himself by claiming he followed the guidelines. A guideline was made up, but that did not comply with the law.’

Breach of confidentiality

On Monday, Vera Bergkamp filed charges regarding the leaking of confidential information about the investigation into her predecessor Khadija Arib. ‘With the Prinsjesdag leaks (the day of the traditional King’s Speech in the Netherlands), there are so many people involved, that it's impossible to find out who is responsible. But now you only have a small circle where the leak could have come from, and it is unlikely that the presidium did this themselves,’ says Wim Voermans. ‘The small circle increases the chances of someone being caught.’ The ultimate consequences of the leak are considerable, according to the professor. ‘This is a breach of official secrecy for which the penalty is a year in prison or a fine of 22,500 euros.’

You can watch the NPO1 episode (in Dutch) here.

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