Action taken to stop misuse of Government Information (Public Access) Act

Members of the public will no longer be able to misuse the Government Information (Public Access) Act (Wob) solely to earn money from penalty payments, without having any genuine intention to obtain government information. Handling these false Wob applications costs the government between €8 and €14 million each year, not including the cost of any penalty payments imposed. Today the Senate of the States General passed a bill submitted by the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations to put a stop to the misuse of the Act.

If an administrative authority fails to respond to a request or objection in time, the applicant is entitled to a sum of money under the Failure to Give Timely Decisions (Penalty Payments and Application for Review) Act. The penalty payment can be as high as €1,260. This arrangement is sometimes misused, for example by individuals who conceal a Wob application in a job application letter in the hope that it will go unnoticed and they will be able to claim a penalty payment. There are also firms that earn money by making these false claims systematically.

The new bill exempts Wob applications from the penalty payments legislation. This does not relieve administrative authorities of the obligation to respond to Wob applications or objections within the time limit set. If they fail to do so, the applicant can still take the matter to the courts.

The bill is expected to enter into force on 1 October 2016.