Is politics boring and far removed from you?
On 22 May, the Dutch House of Representatives invited one hundred citizens to pose critical questions regarding the Ministries’ annual reports. This followed on from the annual ‘Accountability Day’. Caspar van den Berg, Associate Professor of Public Administration, helped think about how citizens could have greater involvement in government policy..
Involvement and trust
For many people, the House of Representatives is far removed from their daily lives. The goal of the Accountability-100 (V-100) day is to involve citizens in the government’s public accountability. What has actually come of the grand plans the government announced in its annual budget? Has public money been spent well and how can this money go further and be spent more efficiently in the future? This innovative approach to accountability allows citizens to have a direct say in these important issues. By allowing citizens to contemplate critical questions for the cabinet, the House of Representatives hopes to narrow the gap between citizens and politics and thus boost confidence.
One hundred citizens who are involved in the specific policy themes in daily life were invited to meet in the House of Representatives on Monday, 22 May 2017. These individuals come from all over the country and the group is highly varied. Employees from the fields of education, police and the Employee Insurance Administration (UWV) were invited, as well as 50+ job seekers, employees of Child Services (Bureau Jeugdzorg) and the Dutch Council for Refugees (Vluchtelingenwerk). Caspar van den Berg developed a questionnaire for this pilot.
Opening address and programme
Khadija Arib, Speaker of the House of Representatives, opened the day. “We are curious about the impact The Hague plans have on the lives of Dutch citizens. We would like to hear what opportunities the V-100 participants envision for improving policy.”
Pieter Duisenberg, Chair of Committee Finances, explained the programme: “I am hoping for critical questions and a greater understanding between society and politics and I see this day as a day of ultimate public accountability.”
“In the afternoon, the participants were divided into five groups to come up with thematic questions based on the National Annual Reports under the guidance of ProDemos (House of Democracy and Rule of Law), the General Court of Auditors (Algemene Rekenkamer) and the Research Office of Government Expenditure (Onderzoeksbureau Rijksuitgaven). These questions were bundled and presented to members of the House of Representatives at the end of the day.
In the Education, Culture and Science group, the topic was ‘skilled teachers’, in which the development of teachers and students was the key focus. The V-100 saw this as a golden opportunity to have their voices heard and provide their colleagues and students with positive feedback. The participants expect to hear back on the questions asked.
But is civic participation in the form of a V-100 really the instrument for achieving this goal? Caspar van den Berg wants to use his questionnaire to determine this. Van den Berg: “The House of Representatives is looking for ways to supplement classical accountability with other means to ensure citizens are involved in policy. In any case, we saw today that politics took on a different face for the participants. House of Representatives members are hard-working people who deal with complex issues on a daily basis.”