Dutch gov’t “unbearably slow” in responding to citizens requests for information: study

It is taking longer and longer for citizens to get information from the government. The new Open Government Act (WOO), which was supposed to make it easier to obtain that data, has not yet produced any results.

Processing is still “unbearably slow,” by the Institute of Social Innovation and the Open State Foundation. The WOO is the successor to the Government Information (Public Access) Act (WOB) and took effect on May 1 after over a decade of debate.

Last year, it took Ministries an average of 167 days to answer a request for information, according to the study. With the introduction of the WOO, this dropped to an average of 152. But that was still longer than a year earlier when requests got responses in an average of 161 days. The legal term for responding to a WOO request is 42 days.

Last year, the Ministry of Finance took the longest to respond to a WOB/WOO request at an average of 211 days. For the second year in a row, the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science was the fastest, with an average of 70 days.

According to the report, the WOO has brought a “new dynamic” to the process. “Governments have invested a lot of time and energy in the past year to meet the ambitions and obligations of the new WOO.” But the researchers also see fragmentation, a lack of direction, and ambiguities. The national and local governments were not yet ready for the WOO when it was introduced.

The WOO gives citizens the legal right to information and covers more government agencies than the WOB did. If the government fails to provide information, it is obliged to justify its decision.

Reporting by ANP

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