Tens of millions of euros of public money may have been improperly spent
Translated by Thomas Ansell
The Netherlands tends to pride itself on transparency, and adherence to international rules, but as with most glossy images, sometimes a story breaks that shatters that façade. Groningen is in the news today with the NOS reporting a number of inconsistencies over the sale of land development rights and the rights build lucrative wind turbines in the North of the Province, with Groningen Seaports right in the firing line.
There are a number of complaints being aired: from accusations that building rights deals were kept in semi-secret and concluded through improper means, through to suggestions that local politicians and civil servants were misled about certain projects and deals. The litany of accusations (as yet only accusations) includes the suggestion that large amounts of public money were unnecessarily spent on cosy contracts with local a local business.
The NOS’s Nieuwsuur suggests that the local building company Bakker Bierum’s deals worth millions of euros for ground preparations and wind turbines were not subject to proper oversight. The dodgy deals were allegedly concluded in 2013.
Deputy IJzebrand Rijzebol of the Province of Groningen was shocked by the news, reports RTV Noord: “yesterday evening, reporting from Nieuwsuur suggested that there was a connection between the acquisition of ground rights, and the acquisition of wind turbines. I am shocked by this, and will immediately look into it.”
Cas Köning, director of Groningen Seaports, says: “in October 2013 there was a complete agreement signed with Bakker Bierum that included both the purchase of the sites and the granting of wind rights. These elements cannot, therefore, be assessed separately from eachother.”
It is thought that the transactions were kept from both local and regional government, despite the fact that Groningen Seaports was a company set up by Dutch local government, under the auspices of the Province of Groningen, and Gemeentes Eemsdelta and Het Hogeland, but privatized in 2013.
Whilst there is no proof that the deals were purposefully kept secret, one member of both the Gemeente Eemsdelta and board of directors of Groningen Seaports, Edward Stulp, says: “I’ve been part of this organisation for a while, and I pretended that I have a deep knowledge of Groningen Seaports, but I must unfortunately confirm that I have no knowledge of these documents.”