The Netherlands’ Court of Audit is the independent organ that audits the legality, effectiveness and efficiency of the national government’s spending. The Court reports to parliament and its members are recommended by parliament and appointed by the cabinet. Parliament frequently consults with this institution, and in many cases this leads to investigations. Investigations may also be initiated by ministers or deputy ministers. However, such requests are not formal due to the independent status of the Court of Audit. Requests by citizens are also taken into account. The Court of Audit is supported by 300 full-time staff, distributed among five departments, of which three are dedicated to research. At least 75% of this staff works in the research departments.
The reports by the Court of Audit are publicly accessible and can be found online and as parliamentary publications (Kamerstuk). Parliament policy staff at national departments or local administration bodies are quite sensitive to criticisms from the Court. Court of Audit criticism can prompt parliamentarians to summon ministers, as was the case in 2003, when a Court of Audit report on the infrastructural Betuweroute project led to considerable public debate. Every year, the Court of Audit checks the financial evaluations of the ministries.
In April 2008, the Court of Audit criticized the government for spending €0.5 billion on hiring external parties for information and communication technology (ICT) projects. The Court of Audit criticized in particular the government’s tendering practices, as ministries tend to over-appreciate the benefits of automation, have too many demands and lack knowledge about the progress of ICT projects. The Court of Audit concluded that a correction mechanism was missing. Parliament members and experts in turn criticized the Court of Audit for underestimating the budget spent by ministries on ICT.
Algemene Rekenkamer, Rijk verantwoord 2008, Rapport bij het Financieel Jaarverslag van het Rijk 2008 en uitkomsten rechtmatigheidonderzoek.
Rekenkamer uit forse kritiek op ICT-projecten ministeries, NRC, 23 april 2008.
ICT-Deskundigen: Raming rekenkamer veel te laag, Trouw 30 november 2007.