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Frits van der Meer and Gerrit Dijkstra in Dutch Newspaper Trouw on contradiction in the civil service

The issues surrounding the crises at the Dutch Tax Authorities and the Dutch Ministries of Justice and Defence had been known internally for considerable time. The information had been duly passed but criticism was largely ignored. Contradiction expressed by civil servants was not appreciated and even discouraged.

Loyal contradiction is essential for maintaining the public administration's organizational performance according to Frits van der Meer, Professor by special appointment Comparative Public Sector and Civil Service Reform, and Gerrit Dijkstra, Associate Professor, both working for the Institute of Public Administration at Leiden University. 'Loyal contradiction means: making your professional opinion about a policy proposal, implementation plan, and other administrative matters known to political and administrative superiors and colleagues. It also means being heard. As such, contradiction has a sounding board function.


Loyal contradiction does not mean that civil servants should always impose their own views. Is about calling colleagues and political and administrative superiors to account in order to improve the government's performance. Contraction protects the government from making mistakes such as, for instance, the ones that were made during the recent affair regarding child care allowances. As a result of the government's failure, peoples lives were unduly put at risk.

Making their professional opinions known does not mean that a civil servant is being disloyal towards colleagues in the administration or politics. Contradiction is a historical part of a civil servant's duties. 'Not only is it a duty to support those persons responsible, it is also a duty to serve society and democracy.'

You can read the full article (in Dutch) on the website of Trouw.

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