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Netherlands Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

The second action plan primarily includes commitments on open data. While more than half of commitments were substantially completed, they were not sufficiently ambitious. Moving forward, the next action plan needs to address several stakeholder priorities, such as the new Freedom of Information Act and transparency of company beneficial ownership. 



Well-Designed? *

6. Publication of open data standard

Providing and publishing information in a standardized, machine-readable format is a major step toward increasing the quality of information for citizens and reducing inconvenience.


* Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as specific, relevant, and has a transformative potential impact
✪ Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as being specific, relevant, potentially transformative, and substantially or fully implemented

Several meetings were held with CSOs and citizens in 2015 to share ideas for the second action plan. The government ultimately formulated their own commitments and did not explain why CSO suggestions were not taken into account. The government did not establish a regular multi-stakeholder forum to enable consultation during implementation. 

Netherlands did not act contrary to OGP process

A country is considered to have acted contrary to process if one or more of the following occurs:

  • The National Action Plan was developed with neither online or offline engagements with citizens and civil society
  • The government fails to engage with the IRM researchers in charge of the country’s Year 1 and Year 2 reports
  • The IRM report establishes that there was no progress made on implementing any of the commitments in the country’s action plan

The second action plan of the Netherlands contains 9 commitments and focuses on two key areas: open data and open attitudes. There are fewer commitments than the previous action plan but the rate of completion and ambition are both lower, with no commitment complete by the end of the first year and no commitment having a transformative potential impact.

Commitment Title
Well-designed* Complete Overview
1. National Open Data Agenda (‘NODA’) No No To increase the amount of published data in the open data standard on, the Ministry published ‘usable’ datasets on the portal, but has not begun monitoring progress, nor has it begun assisting other governments in publishing data.
2. Stuiveling Open Data Award (‘SODA’) No No This commitment aims to create an annual contest to incentivize the public and private sector to develop useful applications using government-provided data. Although the award encourages the re-use of data, it is not directly relevant to OGP values.
3. ROUTE-TO-PA: Re-use of open data No No This commitment contains three vaguely formulated activities that aim to explore ways that open data can address social issues. The government has no direct responsibility for implementation and therefore the potential impact is none.
4. Active publication of information No No The main objective of this commitment is to disclose research reports and feasibility assessments to align with the European Directive on the Re-use of Public Information. The government has published hundreds of research reports online but has not yet made feasibility assessments available.
5. Open about finances: detailed open spending data No No The commitment aims to increase the adoption of a new standard for financial transparency. The commitment is ultimately limited in scale as pursuing three local government pilots does not represent a transformative change in financial transparency in the country.
6. Publication of open data standard No No This commitment aims to pilot the publication of information in a standardized, machine-readable format with five local authorities, but the implementing institution cannot legally oblige Dutch municipalities to adopt the draft standard.
7. Develop the skills of public sector staff No No This commitment aims to train staff within the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment to more effectively interact with civil society. However, specificity is low as the type of training is not identified nor how the courses will increase dialogue.
8. Informal approach to freedom of information requests No No The commitment builds on the first action plan to introduce alternative dispute resolution techniques and apply an informal approach when handling requests for information. The text does not sufficiently describe what the proposed “informal approach” would entail.
9. Support to other public sector organizations: Expertise Centre (LEOO) No No The Open Government Expertise Center will continue to support lead agencies in the action plan and other public sector organizations on open government topics but the low specificity of the commitment text and largely internal focus of the activities offers only a minor potential impact.

* Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as specific, relevant, and has a transformative potential impact
✪ Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as being specific, relevant, potentially transformative, and substantially or fully implemented

  1. Improve institutional and CSO participation in the OGP process
  2. Include large agencies, Parliament and judiciary in the OGP process
  3. Include legally binding commitments on disclosing information
  4. Include civic participation commitments
  5. Improve the performance of the “House of Whistleblowers”

All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that include concrete commitments over a two-year period. Governments begin their OGP action plans by sharing existing efforts related to open government, including specific strategies and ongoing programs.

Commitments should be appropriate to each country’s unique circumstances and challenges. OGP commitments should also be relevant to OGP values laid out in the OGP Articles of Governance and Open Government Declaration signed by all OGP-participating countries.[Note56: Open Government Partnership: Articles of Governance, June 2012 (Updated March 2014 and April 2015),]

What Makes a Good Commitment?

Recognizing that achieving open government commitments often involves a multiyear process, governments should attach timeframes and benchmarks to their commitments that indicate what is to be accomplished each year, whenever possible. This report details each of the commitments the country included in its action plan and analyzes the first year of their implementation.

The indicators used by the IRM to evaluate commitments are as follows:

·       Specificity: This variable assesses the level of specificity and measurability of each commitment. The options are:

o   High: Commitment language provides clear, verifiable activities and measurable deliverables for achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Medium: Commitment language describes activity that is objectively verifiable and includes deliverables, but these deliverables are not clearly measurable or relevant to the achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Low: Commitment language describes activity that can be construed as verifiable but requires some interpretation on the part of the reader to identify what the activity sets out to do and determine what the deliverables would be.

o   None: Commitment language contains no measurable activity, deliverables, or milestones.

·       Relevance: This variable evaluates the commitment’s relevance to OGP values. Based on a close reading of the commitment text as stated in the action plan, the guiding questions to determine the relevance are:

o   Access to Information: Will the government disclose more information or improve the quality of the information disclosed to the public?

o   Civic Participation: Will the government create or improve opportunities or capabilities for the public to inform or influence decisions?

o   Public Accountability: Will the government create or improve opportunities to hold officials answerable for their actions?

o   Technology & Innovation for Transparency and Accountability: Will technological innovation be used in conjunction with one of the other three OGP values to advance either transparency or accountability?[Note57: IRM Procedures Manual,]

·       Potential impact: This variable assesses the potential impact of the commitment, if completed as written. The IRM researcher uses the text from the action plan to:

o   Identify the social, economic, political, or environmental problem;

o   Establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan; and

o   Assess the degree to which the commitment, if implemented, would impact performance and tackle the problem.

Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. In order to receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria:

Based on these criteria, the Netherlands’s action plan contained no starred commitments.

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its progress reporting process. For the full dataset for the Netherlands and all OGP-participating countries, see the OGP Explorer.[Note59: OGP Explorer:]

General Overview of the Commitments

In July 2017, the Netherlands action plan was extended until 20 June 2018 to align with the OGP calendar. This report assesses the revised action plan, which includes an appendix with additional clarification on commitment objectives. The action plan focused on two key areas – Open Data and Open Attitude. The commitments in this report follow the organization provided in the action plan and its appendix.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP provides an international forum for dialogue and sharing among governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector, all of which contribute to a common pursuit of open government.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands (The Netherlands) began its formal participation in July 2011, when J. P. R. Donner, the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, declared his country’s intention to participate in the initiative.[Note1:]

In order to participate in OGP, governments must exhibit a demonstrated commitment to open government by meeting a set of (minimum) performance criteria. Objective, third-party indicators are used to determine the extent of country progress on each of the criteria: fiscal transparency, public official’s asset disclosure, citizen engagement, and access to information. See Section VII: Eligibility Requirements for more details.

All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that elaborate concrete commitments with the aim of changing practice beyond the status quo over a two-year period. The commitments may build on existing efforts, identify new steps to complete ongoing reforms, or initiate action in an entirely new area.

The Netherlands developed its second national action plan from May 2015 to December 2015. The official implementation period for the action plan was 1 July 2016 through 31 December 2017. On 30 June 2017, the government extended this period by one year, through 31 December 2018. The milestones of all nine commitments were altered. This year one report covers the action plan development process and first year of implementation, from January 2016 to September 2017. Beginning in 2015, the IRM started publishing end-of-term reports on the final status of progress at the end of the action plan’s two-year period. Any activities or progress occurring after the first year of implementation September 2017 will be assessed in the end-of-term report. The government published its mid-term self-assessment in September 2017.[Note2:]

In order to meet OGP requirements, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) of OGP has partnered with Caroline Raat, who carried out this evaluation of the development and implementation of the Dutch second action plan. To gather the voices of multiple stakeholders, the IRM researcher organized a stakeholder forum, which was conducted according to a focus group model. She interviewed three academic experts in the field of open government and reviewed several government documents and websites, information provided by the lead institutions, the government and various indices, and academic and journalistic articles. Furthermore, the IRM researcher conducted an online survey. The IRM aims to inform ongoing dialogue around development and implementation of future commitments. Methods and sources are dealt with in Section VI of this report (Methodology and Sources).

The Netherlands scores high in open government benchmarks but in recent years the country has faced transparency and integrity challenges. The second action plan mainly includes commitments of a technical nature and does not adequately reflect the priorities identified by civil society, such as the need for a new Freedom of Information Act and beneficial ownership transparency.

2.1 Background

Traditionally, the Netherlands has regarded itself as exemplary when it comes to openness, equality and good governance. It is one of the founding countries of the European Union and the Council of Europe. The Hague has boasted of being the ‘international city of peace and justice’ for more than 100 years.[Note3: Brochure,] In the eyes of many Dutch people, this self-evident reputation of good governance is one of the reasons why open government issues have been largely overlooked until recently.

In 2017, the Netherlands ranked – together with 2 other countries –  8 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). This decline was caused by a low score on quality of democracy, good governance and rule of law.[Note4:]  Additionally, the Netherland’s press freedom ranking dropped from two in 2016 to five in 2017. [Note5: Reporters Without Borders: Netherlands,] On 21 March 2018, a consultative referendum was held on changes to the Intelligence and Security Services Act (Wet op de Informatie- en Veiligheidsdiensten, Wiv), that showed a small majority of the people oppose the change. According to Reporters without Borders, the Wiv gives government powers which might undermine the protection of journalistic sources.[Note6: Reporters Without Borders: Netherlands,]  Government parties in the House of Commons abolished the Referendum Act retroactively on 22 Februari 2018.[Note7: Government Documents,]

The Netherlands scores 63 out of 111 countries on the Global Right to Information ranking.[Note8: Global Right to Information Rating,] The Constitution does not guarantee the right to information through the FoI Act, though it does provide a relatively strong statutory protection of the right. On 25 September 2017, several law professors stated on television that the Dutch FoI Act is outdated, does not meet European standards and needs to be modernized.[Note9: Nieuwsuur,] Since the current FoI Act does not meet the standards for open data and focuses on legal procedures to gather information rather than ‘active openness’ by the government, the lower house of parliament passed a new FoI Act in April 2016.[Note10: Draft FoI,] Due to objections by the former Minster of the Interior, however, the Senate has not passed the Act. The Minister initiated an impact analysis arguing that the implementation would be extensively costly. The analysis and the bureau that performed it, were criticized for non-objectivity and incorrectness.[Note11: Publications on impact analysis;;] 

The Netherlands ranks eight on the Open Data Barometer in 2016. The country scores high on geodata and government budget data, but remarkably low on public contracts (15/100), company register (50/100), and detailed government spending data (5/100).[Note12: Open Data Barometer: Netherlands, ]

The Panama Papers mentioned the Netherlands more than 500 times.[Note13: Panama Papers and Netherlands,] Recent research shows that the country is the world’s number one fiscal facilitator for multinationals to move (‘conduit’) their money to tax havens.[Note14: Scientific Reports: Uncovering Offshore Financial Centers,] The 2018 Financial Secrecy Index noted that the Netherlands lags behind on implementing the Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive,[Note15: Financial Secrecy Index 2018,] and implies that the sector is prone to money-laundering activities. Researchers have also identified an increase in the penetration of organized crime. These two factors have led to calls for more transparency, screening and awareness.[Note16: P. Tops and J. Tromp, De achterkant van Nederland, hoe onderwereld en bovenwereld verstrengeld raken, Balans 2016.] 

Problems in transparency and integrity in The Netherlands are related to the Dutch ‘polder culture.’ The ‘polder culture’ has an impact on the Dutch action plan and its performance, and may partially explain the absence of key issues. According to recent literature, the ‘polder’ refers to a culture of informal and confidential decision making by ruling elites that distribute powerful positions by cooptation.[Note17: W. Slingerland,; SER,; B. de Koning, T.Holman, ‘Hollandse corruptie’, Het Parool, 6 Februari 2012; M. Van Hulten, ‘Nederland-corruptieland’ Civis Mundi. Tijdschrift voor Politieke Filosofie en Cultuur, September 2012.] For instance, the are no rules to prevent the revolving door of politicians becoming lobbyists and board members as soon as they leave public office. This ‘polder’ could be seen by some as ‘a light form of swindling or benefiting friends.’[Note18: J. Huizinga, Nederlands Geestesmerk, 1935, p.13.] The importance of maintaining good relations between government, elites and interest groups may also lead to the downplaying and denying of illicit behavior.  

The umbrella organizations of local and regional governments – which position themselves as interest groups – were reproached for having ‘killed’ the new FoI Act.[Note19: M. Delaere,] One interviewed expert noted that over the past few decades, openness in the Dutch public sector culture has seriously declined.[Note20: Interview with prof. W.J.M. Voermans, Leiden, 25 August 2017.] This development undermines not only transparency but also the Rule of Law, as well as responsive and good governance.

2.2 Scope of Action Plan in Relation to National Context

The first action plan was ambitious but lacked focus. The second action plan has fewer commitments overall and focuses on specialized, technical commitments. However, these commitments largely do not cover the topics that stakeholders have prioritized, as expressed in recommendations made by the Coalition for Open Government and the Citizens’ Panel. This was also noted by members of parliament.[Note21: Parliamentary Committee meeting on Action Plan, ] Although stakeholders have asked for more transparency and participation commitments, seven of the nine commitments involve open data. According to Transparency International, the action plan “does not envision a general approach towards making the governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens, but it rather s a patchwork of specialized commitments.”[Note22: Transparency International Netherlands’ prepublication comments, 11 April 2018.]

One possible reason why the government has shown reluctance in tackling a number of these important issues is the ‘polder culture’, as discussed in Section 2.1. Additionally, it is important to note that several commitments (specifically, commitments 7 and 8) do not address the potential risk of the ‘polder culture’, which may affect implementation. Commitment seven involves networking with interest groups to develop policy plans. Transparency International has stated that the choice of invited parties may exclude other parties, and the informal decision making that results may not be transparent.[Note23: Focus group meeting, September 2017.] 

The second primary focus of the action plan, open attitude, more clearly reflects calls from the general public to address the government’s bureaucracy and improve transparency. That said, the action plan should also include other priority themes that affect the Netherlands. For example, research has revealed the illicit and ‘informal’ influence of law clerks and interns on adjudication within the Judiciary.[Note24: Transparency on law clercs,] There are also concerns regarding the Judiciary’s transparency due to its reluctance to disclose the side jobs of judges.[Note25: Side jobs of judges,]

Several meetings were held with CSOs and citizens in 2015 to share ideas for the second action plan. The government ultimately formulated their own commitments and did not explain why CSO suggestions were not taken into account. The government did not establish a regular multi-stakeholder forum to enable consultation during implementation.

3.1 Leadership

This subsection describes the OGP leadership and institutional context for OGP in The Netherlands. Table 3.1 summarizes this structure while the narrative section (below) provides additional detail.

Table 3.1: OGP Leadership

1. Structure



Is there a clearly designated Point of Contact for OGP (individual)?





Is there a single lead agency on OGP efforts?





Is the head of government leading the OGP initiative?



2. Legal Mandate



Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through an official, publicly released mandate?



Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through a legally binding mandate?



3. Continuity and Instability



Was there a change in the organization(s) leading or involved with the OGP initiatives during the action plan implementation cycle?



Was there a change in the executive leader during the duration of the OGP action plan cycle?



The Netherlands is a decentralized, unitarian state. It consists of 12 provinces, 388 municipalities and 22 water boards, all with their own democratically established, relatively autonomous regimes. Because there is no national legislation on OGP issues, cooperation is largely a matter of voluntary compliance according to the traditional polder model, as explained in Section 2.1. The national government does not have an official mandate that would oblige regional or local governments to implement OGP activities. The umbrella association of local governments participated activtely in on or more commitments.

The Prime Minister and his Ministry of General Affairs are not involved in Open Government, nor is Parliament. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (“The Ministry”) is the coordinating office for the Dutch OGP commitments. This Ministry is responsible for the internal organization of government, information (FoI, open data), democracy and citizenship, the Caribbean Netherlands (‘Kingdom Relations’), public housing, and national properties. As of 10 October 2017, there is a new, four-party coalition government. Mrs. K. Ollongren is the new Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

The Ministry has a policy team for open government, in the Department of Democracy, in the Directorate Democracy and Citizenship. One full-time employee is attributed to OGP activities. There has been no change in mandate or OGP leadership since the Netherlands joined OGP in 2011.

The Ministry has no legal power to enforce policy changes on other agencies within the national, provincial and local government. (Table 3.1 provides an overview of the leadership and mandate of OGP in The Netherlands). In 2013, the Ministry established a Learning and Expertise Centre on Open Government (Leer- en Expertisecentrum Open Overheid, LEOO) that is involved in the open government process. LEOO shares knowledge and experience on open government with other government organizations and employs three people. The budget for OGP-related activities is €70,000 per year.

Since the beginning of 2016, the Ministry has held two meetings with all the lead institutions and LEOO staff. Some commitments are led by non-governmental lead institutions, such as the Netherlands Association of Municipalities (Vereniging voor Nederlandse Gemeenten, VNG) and the Open State Foundation (OSF). The IRM researcher observed both meetings.[Note26:] The website, run by LEOO, has been quite active.

3.2 Intragovernmental Participation

This subsection describes which government institutions were involved at various stages in OGP. The next section will describe which nongovernmental organizations were involved in OGP.

Table 3.2 Participation in OGP by Government Institutions

How did institutions participate?

Ministries, Departments, and Agencies


Judiciary (including quasi-judicial agencies)

Other (including constitutional independent or autonomous bodies)

Subnational Governments

Consult: These institutions observed or were invited to observe the action plan but may not be responsible for commitments in the action plan.

2[Note27: Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment.]





Propose: These institutions proposed commitments for inclusion in the action plan.

2[Note28: Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment.]



1[Note29: Utrecht University.]

1[Note30: Province Groningen.]

Implement:  These institutions are responsible for implementing commitments in the action plan whether or not they proposed the commitments.

2[Note31: Although the action plan lists 12 ministries, in practice, the two ministries that were responsible for implementation were the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The 12 listed ministries are: Ministry of General Affairs; Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality; Ministry of Defence; Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy; Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management; Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations; Ministry of Security and Justice (since 2018: Justice and Security); Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.]



2[Note32: Utrecht University, ICTU.]

0[Note33: Although all provinces, municipalities and water authorities were listed in the action plan, most of these institutions were not directly responsible for implementing commitments. ]

According to the action plan, government participation involves all ministries, provinces, local governments and water authorities. In practice, this participation is limited to two ministries, one province, a public university, a few local governments (that are mentioned in blogs on the LEOO website), and two non-governmental institutions (the Netherlands Association of Municipalities (VNG) and the Open State Foundation (OSF).[Note34: Participation is mentioned in blogs on the LEOO website. For example,] VNG and OSF were responsible for the implementation of two commitments (commitment 5 and commitment 6). Other than these institutions, the listed ministries and agencies did not propose, develop, or implement the commitments. Table 3.2 above details which institutions were involved in OGP, as stated in the action plan.

On 2 June 2015, the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations (“the Ministry”) held an informal consultation with an unknown number of local government leaders, such as mayors and high-level civil servants. These “five-minute talks” took place on the conference floor of a closed conference organized by their umbrella association, VNG.[Note35: Self Assessment 2016 by the Ministry, p. 7,] There are no minutes of these meetings. The results of these talks have not been disclosed. According to an email from the Ministry on 29 June 2017, VNG and one of its branches, Knowledge Institute for Dutch Municipalities (KING), signed up to implement OGP commitments at the subnational level. VNG/KING also participated in the first action plan.

Since the beginning of 2016, the Ministry has held two meetings with all the lead institutions and LEOO staff. The IRM researcher observed both meetings.[Note36:] The first meeting was held to explain OGP and the action plan. It was also the first opportunity for all lead institutions to get to know each other informally. The second meeting focused on updates on the commitments. The website,, run by LEOO, has been very active. All lead institutions blog about their commitments every six weeks, informing the public on their progress.[Note37:] There is no option for website visitors to comment on the blogs.

3.3 Civil Society Engagement

During the first half of 2015, the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations (“the Ministry”) held two meetings. On 18 May 2015, the “Do Open Festival” was held in Amsterdam. While the festival scheduled one OGP-specific event, the scope of the event was broader than OGP. The agenda, published on 14 December 2014, planned for a 1.5 hour session to serve as the action plan consultation kick-off. It is unclear how many people attended this session or what their background was because there is no list of participants from either the session or the ‘Do Open Festival’.[Note38:] According to the Ministry, an inventory of ambitions for the second action plan took place during the session, and parties were invited to co-create the action plan.[Note39:] In a 29 June 2017 email to the IRM researcher, the Ministry explains that ‘various ideas were shared, though these did not lead to any commitment’.

On 17 June 2015, the Ministry held a full-day, invitation-only meeting. ‘Open Gov in Action’ took place in Utrecht. 120 professionals and CSO representatives were invited, and about 100 people attended the meeting, including the former and present IRM researchers. The Ministry wrote in its email of 29 June 2017 that the policy team selected eight topics ahead of the meeting that participants could talk about in working groups.[Note40: The topics were: financial transparency, clear information, insight in decision making, best local practices, learning from other countries, open by design, open data and open culture. ] Participants were given the opportunity to sign up as possible lead institutions for the second national action plan. Working groups proposed many ideas and suggestions, and the ministry’s project leader summarized them on stage at the end of the day; however, these were not used in the action plan.[Note41:] The Ministry added that there was ‘a lot of input and inspiration, but that it was too hard to make the step forward to actual commitments.’

A Citizen’s panel of 18 pre-selected representatives was consulted for the second action plan. A consultancy bureau was hired to select citizens that had experience with government, but did not have professional ties to government. 85 people were invited, but only 18 people attended. The meeting was informal and interactive in nature. Its report was disclosed on 27 June 2015.[Note42: Citizens’ Panel, 27 June 2015,] According to the panel, an ‘Open Attitude’ was by far the most important theme mentioned by government, followed by clear information and open local government. Open data was considered least important. Other commitments (not suggested by government) included topics such as privacy and creating more opportunities for people to share their information with the government.

During the summer of 2015, a draft of the second action plan was written. According to the Ministry’s email of 29 June 2017, the invited lead institutions formulated their own commitments and milestones, and the Open Government policy team wrote the general chapters. The government chose to keep the action plan ‘small and limited in scope’. There are no reports on this writing process.

On 21 September 2015, the Manifesto ‘Our Gov, Our Info’, written by the Coalition on Open Government – that included all relevant CSOs in the Netherlands - was published.[Note43:] The Manifesto commented on the first action plan and gave clear suggestions for the next action plan, including modernizing the FoI Act, lobby and beneficial ownership transparency, an open legislation process, data education, and privacy. The Ministry organized a meeting with this coalition on 24 September 2015 and discussed the second action plan.[Note44: Minutes,] The Open State Foundation (OSF), a member of the Coalition but also a lead institution in the first action plan, took on the role of a lead, implementing institution in the 2016-2017 action plan.

On 21 September 2015, the Ministry explained to the Citizens’ panel why its suggestions were not included in the second action plan. There are no minutes of this meeting, and at the time of writing this report, the Citizens’ panel no longer exists.

Though an internet consultation on the draft action plan was promised on 8 October 2015, this did not take place.[Note45: Promise of internet consultation,] According to the email of 29 June 2017, the official consultation website was not suitable for policy issues and there was not enough time to create an alternative. The Ministry stated that after the meetings in September 2015, the text of the draft action plan was altered in a minor way.[Note46: Draft action plan,,] During October and November 2015, coordination with all ministries took place. The Ministry’s email of 29 June 2017 explains that the Cabinet made the final decision on the action plan. On 15 December 2015, the action plan was published on the OGP website. The Minister sent the action plan to Parliament on the following day. A few months later an annex, including the commitments according to the OGP template, was published on the OGP website.

A seven-minute film was made on the whole consultation process.[Note47: Action plan video,] In this film there is no information on the selection process. The Ministry noted that commitments were ambitious and met the SMART criteria: specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound. The proposals and ideas of CSOs were not part of these selection criteria.[Note48: Mail to researcher by Ministry point of contact, 29 June 2017.] The researcher noted in the film that the former team leader of the Ministry emphasized the close link between the second action plan and the National Open Data Agenda. The team leader also states that – because of the film – the action plan’s realization process has been ‘transparent and exemplary.’ She says that the CSO and other participants ‘have been heard and involved.’ In a brief interview held on 2 February 2016, the researcher concluded that, in hindsight, the Ministry should have taken more time and provided more opportunities to co-create the action plan.[Note49: Action plan leader,]

Following the criteria outlined in Table 3.4, the IRM researcher assessed the level of public input during action plan development to be ‘consult’. Though meetings were held and CSOs had sufficient opportunities to express their wishes on the second action plan, topics were internally chosen and the Ministry’s policy team did not directly incorporate CSOs’ suggestions. Motivation for the government’s choice has not been published, other than a brief explanation in the general section of the second action plan, which says that the focus will be on open data and open attitude.[Note50: Action Plan 2016-2017, p.8.] The IRM researcher found that the development process of the action plan has been essentially top-down.

Countries participating in OGP follow a set of requirements for consultation during development, implementation, and review of their OGP action plan. Table 3.3 summarizes the performance of The Netherlands during the 2016-2018 action plan.

Table 3.3: National OGP Process

Key Steps Followed:  4 of 7


1. Timeline Process & Availability

2. Advance Notice

Timeline and process available online prior to consultation



Advance notice of consultation





3. Awareness Raising

4. Multiple Channels

Government carried out awareness-raising activities



4a. Online consultations:     






4b. In-person consultations:




5. Documentation & Feedback

Summary of comments provided






6. Regular Multistakeholder Forum

6a. Did a forum exist?



6b. Did it meet regularly?          








7. Government Self-Assessment Report

7a. Annual self-assessment report published?         



7b. Report available in English and administrative language?





7c. Two-week public comment period on report?



7d. Report responds to key IRM recommendations?








Table 3.4: Level of Public Influence

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Participation” to apply to OGP.[Note51: IAP2 Spectrum of Participation,] This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, most countries should aspire for “collaborative.”

Level of public influence
During development of action plan
During implementation of action plan

The government handed decision-making power to members of the public.




There was iterative dialogue AND the public helped set the agenda.




The government gave feedback on how public inputs were considered.




The public could give inputs.



The government provided the public with information on the action plan.


No Consultation

No consultation



3.4 Consultation During Implementation

As part of their participation in OGP, governments commit to identify a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation. This can be an existing entity or a new one. This section summarizes that information.

At the time of writing, there has been no consultation on action plan implementation by the government. It did not create a multi-stakeholder forum and there have been no meetings with any of the CSOs involved in implementing the commitments since the action plan development phase.

In December 2016, LEOO organized the “How Open Festival,” but the festival did not include any sessions on OGP implementation. The Minister of the Interior, and many people either involved or interested in Open Government, including the IRM researcher, attended the event.[Note52: How Open Festival,]

The IRM researcher has been told by the point of contact that the Ministry is taking serious steps to meet the multi-stakeholder forum requirements for the next action plan period. It says that the forum will include a journalist, a researcher and people from all government levels. Also, the festivals and other gatherings could be used for this purpose. In general, the lack of focus in the previous period should not be repeated when preparing the third action plan.

3.5 Self-Assessment

The OGP Articles of Governance require that participating countries publish a self-assessment report three months after the end of the first year of implementation. The self-assessment report must be made available for public comments for a two-week period. This section assesses compliance with these requirements and the quality of the report.

The Ministry wrote an extensive self-assessment report, covering all commitments.[Note53: Action plan commitments,] The lead institutions were responsible for reporting on completion levels for their respective commitments. The self-assessment report did not include any discussion of key recommendations from the previous IRM report nor how these recommendations were integrated into the current action plan. An online consultation of the self-assessment draft was held between 15 August 2017 and 1 September 2017. According to the Ministry point of contact, there was only one comment made. This comment is not publicly available. Given the very limited comments received, the finalized version of the self-assessment report is identical to the draft that was published on 15 August 2017.[Note54: Action plan,] The IRM researcher found that many of the activities reported in the self-assessment were not related to the commitments and milestones outlined in the action plan. The researcher also found that the self-assessment report often lacked concrete evidence or reference to accessible sources to justify completion levels.

3.6 Response to Previous IRM Recommendations

Table 3.5: Previous IRM Report Key Recommendations

Integrated into Next Action Plan?


The IRM researcher recommends that, by the end of 2015, the government commits to providing a legal basis for granting citizens access to review personal data held by government including who has reviewed this data, when, and for what purposes. In order to achieve recent recommendations made by the General Audit Court on the basis registries, as a first step, Government can explicitly mandate the National Ombudsman to help citizens realize their right to correct and review personal data.




As part of the next action plan, Netherlands can commit central government ministries and agencies to follow the example set by the Ministry of Finances and report their finances in the General Court of Audit open data format.




The IRM researcher recommends the next action plan should contain an analysis of the categories of information that are of interest to the public and make this information available. This would help implement the European Directive on Public Information 2013/37/EU. The method for publishing open data developed by the Ministry of Finance for the national budget should be applied to financial items in all ministries and should be inserted into the national budget.




Government should enforce uniform use of existing integrity tools by local and regional governments by applying systems adopted by a coalition of forerunning municipalities. Local governments should be legally obliged to have online accessible registries on integrity violations before the end of 2015. Items from this strategy can be included as part of the next OGP action plan.




The IRM researcher recommends taking commitments to structurally embed Pleio as a platform for interorganizational communications and sharing of innovation, as supported by various Dutch government officials and civil society organizations.



The five previous IRM recommendations covered the right to correct and review personal data, open budget and spending, active publication of government information, instruments to enhance integrity, and open working. Two of the five previous IRM recommendations have been addressed, but the commitments and milestones incorporated into the second action plan (commitments 4 and 5) do not reflect the content of the IRM recommendations. 

In the self-assessment, the government stated that it was unable to incorporate all recommendations because it “needed to limit the number of commitments.”[Note55: Midterm Self-Assessment Report,] Other than this statement, the IRM researcher could not retrieve any reflection on the recommendations made during the first action plan, or explanation for why they were not carried forward.

The second action plan did not include several stakeholder priorities, such as the new FoI Act and beneficial ownership registers. In the next action plan, the government needs to develop a multi-stakeholder forum and include ambitious commitments that address civic participation and integrity issues.  

This section aims to inform development of the next action plan and guide completion of the current action plan. It is divided into two sections: 1) those civil society and government priorities identified while elaborating this report and 2) the recommendations of the IRM.

5.1 Stakeholder Priorities

Many of the topics mentioned in the Coalition’s Manifesto, such as the swift passage of the new FoI Act and increasing lobby and ultimate beneficial ownership (UBO) transparency, have not been adopted in the action plan. Furthermore, the exclusion of these CSO priorities was not given any further explanation. The CSO representatives criticized the large number of pilots and non-binding commitments. In general, survey respondents find that the action plan lacks ambition.

For the next action plan, CSOs recommend a shift from open data commitments to user-friendly applications for open data. The pilots should be expanded to complete nationwide rollouts. In the survey, passing the new FoI Act and the introduction of integrity measures, such as an efficient implementation of the House for Whistleblowers Act, score as most important. These topics are followed by privacy and open registers, that are also important instruments to fight tax evasion/avoidance and enhance financial sector integrity and compliance.[Note111: Survey, appendix.]

Bodies of government that are not part of the OGP process but should be included, according to the survey, are large agencies that directly affect citizens, such as the Tax Authority and the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), Parliament and judiciary. Furthermore, people ask for more extensive civic participation programs, inclusiveness and more active disclosure of important information, which will be compulsory under the new FoI Act. The CSOs find that the action plan and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations should be more closely linked to OGP and its values. It needs more resources and top management support to achieve this goal.

All interviewed experts, CSOs and survey respondents believe that addressing recent integrity issues and responsive governance are most vital for open government that is effective and trusted.

5.2 IRM Recommendations

The following section recommends crosscutting, general next steps for OGP in the Netherlands. 

Improve institutional and CSO participation in the OGP process

As stated in Section III of this report, the Netherlands has not developed a multi-stakeholder forum and the overall consultation process during action plan development and implementation does not provide enough opportunity for public influence. As a result, the wishes of stakeholders that represent the citizen’s view on government have only partly been taken into account in the action plan. This has resulted in a second action plan with a narrow scope that is not known or supported by the general public. Both the topics (FoI, open registers, integrity or other open attitude related issues) and the scope (agencies, Parliament, judiciary) of the action plan need serious reconsideration. The next action plan should set a strategic goal to raise its International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) level from ‘inform’ and ‘consult’ to ‘involve’ and ‘collaborate.’

In addition to developing a multi-stakeholder forum that meets the standards in the OGP Handbook,[Note112: Designing and Managing an OGP Multi-stakeholder forum,] the government should include CSOs that have a form of representation or public support, that are not hired by the government to work on a commission basis, and that meet the OECD’s definition of a civil society organization.[Note113: OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms,]

Additionally, the government should consider the following when developing the next action plan:

·       Include all four OGP values in the commitments according to the priorities given by the experts, CSOs and stakeholders in this mid-term report;

·       Make all commitments and milestones SMART and follow the commitments text while implementing them; and

·       Explain, if topics mentioned by the stakeholders are not included, why they are not adopted in the action plan.

In the next action plan, the government should also include large agencies, Parliament and judiciary in the OGP process. More than 60 percent of the survey respondents mention that Parliament should participate in the next action plan. Survey respondents and CSOs have also asked for involvement of other government agencies, as well as the legislative and judiciary bodies in the action plan. The Tax Office is recommended to introduce a commitment on opening up undisclosed tax rulings. Parliament is recommended to introduce a complete lobby register and extend the current legislative document website. The government should also consider expanding participation in the action plan to other bodies of the state that are important to the Rule of Law, such as the Justice system, including police, prosecution office and judiciary.[Note114:]

Expand pilots to more ambitious, nation-wide rollouts

The majority of commitments in this action plan lack ambition. Of the nine commitments, five are specifically designated as pilot projects. This affects the commitment’s scope and, consequently, its potential impact. Stakeholders have also expressed the need for a complete, nationwide rollout of the current pilot projects in the active publication of information on open spending, the publication of information in standardized, machine-readable format, and the informal approach to FoI requests.

Include legally binding commitments on disclosing information 

In accordance with interviewed experts, CSOs and the many publications on the issue, the government should respond to the call for a new Freedom of Information Act that focuses on compulsory publication of government information instead of the right to apply for information and to dispute the right to information in court.

In the first year of the OGP implementation period, the deadline for the Netherlands to implement the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (2015/849/EU) has passed. The Directive would introduce a register containing information about the ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) of all companies and other legal entities in order to prevent the use of the Dutch financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing. Along with the CSO involved, the IRM researcher recommends the government include a commitment to ensure a draft bill is submitted to the Dutch parliament and subsequently implemented in a two-year timeframe. Additionally, the IRM researcher recommends the UBO register be publicly available, even though this is not required by the Directive. 

Include civic participation commitments in the next action plan

In the current action plan, civic participation is indirectly covered by ROUTE-TO-PA and the Public officer in the network society. The IRM researcher recommends developing commitments based on projects mentioned in the recent Ministry of Infrastructure report “Samenspel van een moderne overheid met de energieke samenleving” (‘Teamwork of a modern government with the energetic society’), such as the “Green Deal”, that stimulates social initiatives that have resulted in the increase in textile recycling, and “Beat the microbead”, an initiative that aims to ban microplastics from cosmetics.[Note115: Energieke samenleving policy paper,]

Improve the performance of the “House for Whistleblowers”

In 2016 the Whistleblower Act established a public body, known as the "House for Whistleblowers," tasked with providing advice and investigating reports of integrity violations. Due to internal problems, the board resigned and the "House" has not finalized any research, despite having received hundreds of reports. The government should include a commitment to improve the performance of the "House for Whistleblowers” and specify a minimum number of investigative reports to be produced.  

Table 5.1: Five Key Recommendations


Improve institutional and CSO participation in the OGP process


Include large agencies, Parliament and judiciary in the OGP process


Include legally binding commitments on disclosing information


Include civic participation commitments


Improve the performance of the “House for Whistleblowers”

The IRM progress report is written by researchers based in each OGP-participating country. All IRM reports undergo a process of quality control to ensure that the highest standards of research and due diligence have been applied.

Analysis of progress on OGP action plans is a combination of interviews, desk research, and feedback from nongovernmental stakeholder meetings. The IRM report builds on the findings of the government’s own self-assessment report and any other assessments of progress put out by civil society, the private sector, or international organizations.

Each IRM researcher carries out stakeholder meetings to ensure an accurate portrayal of events. Given budgetary and calendar constraints, the IRM cannot consult all interested or affected parties. Consequently, the IRM strives for methodological transparency and therefore, where possible, makes public the process of stakeholder engagement in research (detailed later in this section.) Some contexts require anonymity of interviewees and the IRM reviews the right to remove personal identifying information of these participants. Due to the necessary limitations of the method, the IRM strongly encourages commentary on public drafts of each report.

Each report undergoes a four-step review and quality-control process:

1.     Staff review: IRM staff reviews the report for grammar, readability, content, and adherence to IRM methodology.

2.     International Experts Panel (IEP) review: IEP reviews the content of the report for rigorous evidence to support findings, evaluates the extent to which the action plan applies OGP values, and provides technical recommendations for improving the implementation of commitments and realization of OGP values through the action plan as a whole. (See below for IEP membership.)

3.     Prepublication review: Government and select civil society organizations are invited to provide comments on content of the draft IRM report.

4.     Public comment period: The public is invited to provide comments on the content of the draft IRM report.

This review process, including the procedure for incorporating comments received, is outlined in greater detail in Section III of the Procedures Manual.[Note116:  IRM Procedures Manual, V.3,]

Interviews and Focus Groups

Each IRM researcher is required to hold at least one public information-gathering event. Researchers should make a genuine effort to invite stakeholders outside of the “usual suspects” list of invitees already participating in existing processes. Supplementary means may be needed to gather the inputs of stakeholders in a more meaningful way (e.g., online surveys, written responses, follow-up interviews). Additionally, researchers perform specific interviews with responsible agencies when the commitments require more information than is provided in the self-assessment or is accessible online.

The researcher interviewed three experts in the field.[Note117: Dr. C.J. Wolswinkel, Prof. J.M. Barendrecht and Prof. W.J.M. Voermans.] This provided much background information and concrete comments on the current action plan. On 14 September 2017, a meeting was held with three of the CSOs involved (Instituut voor Maatschappelijke Innovatie (IMI), Transparency International and NetwerkDemocratie). All members of the Coalition for Open Government were invited, but most of them had other priorities. In the meeting agenda there was room for general comments on the current action plan, extensive deliberation on the commitments and recommendations for the next action plan.

On several occasions, the researcher met the point of contact and LEOO, since she was invited to attend the Lead Institutions meetings. There has also been a lot of contact via email, including providing answers to the researcher’s concrete questions. On 19 September 2017, the researcher met the point of contact in the ministry, who provided more information on the background of the action plan. The lead institutions were all invited to join a telephone meeting, after they were provided with a list of questions on their commitments. All but one (ROUTE-TO-PA) of the institutions responded. All but one (Informal approach to FoI requests) provided information.

Survey-Based data (optional)

During August and September 2017, the researcher held an online survey. There were 153 respondents. Though this is not a very large number, the open comments and answers to general questions (not about specific commitments) were enlightening since they came from a wide variety of respondents and support comments given by the CSO and expert stakeholders. The results of the survey can be found online.[Note118: Public Survey results,]

About the Independent Reporting Mechanism

The IRM is a key means by which government, civil society, and the private sector can track government development and implementation of OGP action plans on an annual basis. The design of research and quality control of such reports is carried out by the International Experts Panel, comprised of experts in transparency, participation, accountability, and social science research methods.

The current membership of the International Experts Panel is

·       César Cruz-Rubio

·       Mary Francoli

·       Brendan Halloran

·       Jeff Lovitt

·       Fredline M'Cormack-Hale

·       Showers Mawowa

·       Juanita Oalaya

·       Quentin Reed

·       Rick Snell

·       Jean-Patrick Villeneuve

A small staff based in Washington, DC, shepherds reports through the IRM process in close coordination with the researchers. Questions and comments about this report can be directed to the staff at


Filed under: IRM Report


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