Dutch government only publish limited number of FOIA decisions online

Despite the recommendation of the Committee on the Future Government Communication in 2001 to publish FOIA decisions online, only few governments in the Netherlands structurally do this. Government departments only publish positive decisions on FOIA requests on the internet. It is however doubtful whether all these decisions are actually published. We come to this conclusion since we launched OpenWob, a tool that enables you to search through FOIA requests, decisions and documents. Meanwhile, nearly 17,000 FOIA documents have been scraped from various Dutch government websites.

Not all FOIA decisions are published on the government’s website

What is striking is that despite the old recommendation of the ‘Committee Wallage’ only few governments structurally publish their decisions online. For example on May 4, 2016, the Ministry of Health took a FOIA decision on the introduction of a language proficiency test for doctors but this decision and the accompanying documents can not be found on the website Also the Dutch Health Authority does not publish all its FOIA decisions online. In 2016 it only published three FOIA decisions but its FOIA decision on checks of two health insurers of 5 April 2016 can not be found there. These documents can be found through the newly redesigned OpenWob.

Disappeared FOIA decisions

We also found that earlier online published FOIA decisions have disappeared. For example, 140 FOIA decisions and documents from the State Supervision on Mines no longer can be found on its website. These FOIA decisions can however be found via OpenWob.

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Rotterdam vs Utrecht 2-162

What we also found is the difference between the number of online published FOIA decisions between governments. For example, the municipality of Utrecht has published 162 FOIA decisions with documents in 2016, while Rotterdam only published two FOIA decisions. In 2015, Rotterdam only published 10 FOIA decisions throughout the year. This is strange since the municipality of Rotterdam received in 2015 some 600 FOIA requests.

How many positive FOIA decisions are made?

If all FOIA decisions of the ministries were published online then that would mean that only 30% of all FOIA requests are granted a positive decision by the government. Between 2013 and 2016 the government published a total of about 1,594 FOIA decisions. Research done by SEO Research showed that the core government ministries combined receive a total of 1,187 FOIA requests each year. The number of approved decisions that online can be found, is only 33.5%. With 600 FOIA requests and only two published online in a large city as Rotterdam, the situation is even far worse.