Dutch transparency bill passes first vote

Today, Dutch parliament voted in favor of the new transparency bill (the Law on Open Government). This law, which paves the way for active transparency and ‘open by default’, is an important milestone for citizens, businesses, interest groups, journalists and government agencies. Last week, Open State Foundation, and a broad coalition of over 37 civic organisations and journalists’ associations, called on the parliament to vote in favor of this law.

The law is an initiative by two parliamentary groups, GroenLinks and D66 and is meant to replace the current FOIA act, which was mostly passive, where information could only be obtained by requests. This has been both time-consuming and cost-ineffective for enquirers as well as governments. The new law enforces an open register of documents and actively publish public sector information.

Impulse for open data and public sector information

Open State Foundation welcomes the support of a large majority from the Second Chamber of the parliament. This bill will replace the outdated legislation and reduces redacted documents, broadens public access to a greater number of public institutions and improves the position of re-users of government information, citizens, businesses, journalists, and governments themselves. Government information will have to made public by default in an online document register. The new law reduces the time governments can take to respond to information requests and it will become less easy for governments to deny the freedom of information. The law broadens the number of public sector organizations that need to comply to requests and makes it possible to include semi-public sector organizations.

Information Commissioner only after evaluation

There were four amendments adopted. An information commissioner was taken out of the law, stipulating that the appointment of an information commissioner will only be made after assessing the law. Another amendment stipulates that communication between members of parliament and civil servants will not be covered by this law.

Governments benefit from greater transparency

The way governments hold and structure their information has been criticised by a number of official institutions, such as the Council of Public Management. Governments will benefit from this law, the need to keep a public register and actively publish public sector information, will improve the information itself and will improve the way information is shared and published. This will save time and public money. After the vote of the Second Chamber today, the law will be discussed by the Senate. On April 26, a special committee of the Senate will start its debate on the law.