Supervision of lower-tier authorities
The Revitalisation of General Supervision Act has simplified the way tiers of government (municipalities, provinces and central government) supervise each other.
Simpler and more transparent
Over the years, many instruments were developed for the supervision of lower-tier authorities by higher authorities. This made the system complex and bureaucratic. The Revitalisation of General Supervision Act, which entered into force on 1 October 2012, eliminated most of the separate provisions on supervision. The result is a simpler and more transparent form of supervision.
The Act is based on confidence in authorities’ ability to perform their tasks well, and on confidence in the effectiveness of accountability within a tier of government. The municipal executive is expected to account properly for its activities to the municipal council and the provincial executive to the provincial council. Under these conditions, supervision by other tiers can be carried out with restraint. The Act is also based on the principle that municipalities and provinces only need to render accounts once, which can then be used for several purposes. This means ministries and national inspectorates play a different role and work in a different way.
Supervision of municipal authorities
Municipal authorities have dealings with a different supervisory authority in each policy area. Following recent changes, the provincial authorities now supervise municipal authorities’ work on spatial planning, construction, the natural environment, housing, heritage and the structural safety of buildings and other works.
Central government still supervises municipal authorities in those areas for which provinces have neither a remit nor expertise, like social affairs.
Supervision of provincial authorities
Central government still supervises provincial authorities’ implementation of delegated competences.
Interventions by the supervisory body
The sole purpose of supervision is to check whether lower-tier authorities are implementing their statutory delegated competences. It is not concerned with the quality of administration. The supervisory body only intervenes when statutory delegated competences are not implemented correctly or in full, or if the lower authority’s decisions are in conflict with the public interest or with the law.
- in these cases, the supervisory body may: supervise the performance of duties entrusted to the municipal authority due to the neglect of official duties: if a municipality or province neglects a delegated competence, the supervisory body may intervene and take over that competence, at the cost of the municipality;
- suspend and annul decisions: if a decision by a municipal or provincial authority is in conflict with the law or with the public interest, it may be suspended and/or annulled by royal decree.
Any decision to intervene must be preceded by an ‘intervention ladder’ made up of six steps. The first step is for the supervisory body to identify the problem and the last is its decision to actually use its power to intervene.
Specific forms of supervision abolished
Specific forms of supervision have been abolished wherever possible, except:
- interdependence between tiers of government for implementation purposes: this concerns tasks for which the supervisory body bears operational responsibility under statute, but whose implementation depends entirely on subnational authorities (e.g. the safety regions);
- supervision of water authorities: as provincial authorities must incorporate the tasks of the regional water authorities into general provincial policy, specific mechanisms must be retained for their supervision of the water authorities.
Online indicators of municipal authorities’ performance
Supervisory bodies need information in order to assess whether municipal authorities are complying with legal requirements. They can find this information on the website Waarstaatjegemeente.nl. This site provides performance indicators for accountability within a tier of government. These indicators give information on how well municipalities have carried out their statutory delegated competences. Supervisory bodies should make as much use of this information as possible, in accordance with the principle that data should be gathered only once, but used multiple times.