photo: John Samson

The Hague – The National Ombudsman will be conducting more investigations into the functioning of the government in Bonaire, Saba, and Statia in 2019. He will be investigating the police, immigration service, and poverty.

The investigation into the poverty on the islands is remarkable to say the least seeing as several reports by UNICEF, Regioned, and Nibud have already been completed. Despite all of these reports, the social minimum for Bonaire, Saba, and Statia has not yet been determined by the cabinet.

According to ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen, his investigation should produce ‘solutions’ which can be implemented by the Hague to ensure that children and families are ‘lifted out of poverty’. Practical solutions are more important in Van Zutphen’s opinion than determining a certain amount that someone needs to live.

“I want to know if there are provisions in place on the islands like the ones we have in the Netherlands and if people can be lifted out of poverty”, says Van Zutphen. He also wants to know if an individuals’ debt is taken into account by the Tax Office (Belastingdienst).

Police to be investigated
Other government institutions will also be investigated. The functioning of the police departments of Bonaire, Saba, and Statia will also be investigated. Van Zutphen wants to know if police officers are taking citizen’s complaints ‘seriously’. “A few issues on the islands, like domestic violence, need to be tackled immediately.”

A report detailing the workings of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) will appear in 2019.

‘Sometimes I feel like I’m a Bonairian ’
When it comes to the handling of complaints, Van Zutphen is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the mindset of the local civil servants. “I found that the level of service, friendliness towards the citizens, and speed could be improved at the service desks of the public entities. Sometimes I feel like I’m a Bonairian, because I couldn’t get answers either. Slowly but surely I’m seeing that it’s starting to change.”

Now it’s time for ‘the bosses’ (island councilmen, officials, and senior civil servants) to change their mindsets. That’s why the ombudsman will organize a special training in the hopes that ‘those who are in charge’ will ensure the proper handling of complaints.

More funds for complaints and research
Contrary to the previous cabinet, the current cabinet (Rutte-III) has allocated more funds for the National Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for the Children (Kinderombudsman) to investigate the Caribbean municipalities. Because of this a lot more consulting-hours can be planned in and more research can be conducted into the complaints that citizens have about the functioning of the government entities on the islands.

Under the previous cabinet with minister Ronald Plasterk (Interior and Kingdom Relations) the extra funds were not made available. “I told him: I really need more funds to be able to do my job properly on the islands. But I didn’t get them.”